19 Feb A quick guide to using colour to connect with your customers
A quick guide to using colour to connect with your customers
Using colour psychology in marketing
Colour is one of the first things a customer will notice about a brand or product. In fact, according to the Institute of Color Research, customers make judgements in the first 90 seconds of seeing a brand or product, with 62-90% of that judgement being based on colour.
So, the colours you choose to use are pretty important.
The impact of colour has encouraged a whole area of study into colour psychology, examining how we subconsciously respond to colour as a trigger for certain feelings, associations, and possibly even physical responses. It suggests that over millions of years, colour has been conditioned in the mind to have different meanings and evoke different reactions.
There is real benefit to be had by looking at the associations of colour and their impact to guide your branding and design choices. Here’s our quick guide to using the principles of colour psychology to better connect with your customers.
So, what does each colour mean?
These are the generally accepted associations with the different colours:
Red is associated with strength, boldness, high energy, warmth, anger, danger, confidence.
There’s a reason why all stop signs are red, and marketers favour red for call-to-action buttons. It is attention grabbing and stands out.
In fact, Hubspot did A/B testing to see if making a CTA button red really makes a difference. The test saw the red button perform 21% better than its green counterpart.
It’s also widely believed that red stimulates appetite, explaining why it is favoured by fast food chains for their logos.
Unsurprisingly, orange is associated with warmth, positivity, friendliness, humour, and autumn. The fun-element has made it the go-to colour choice for brands like Nickelodeon and Fanta.
Yellow (Webmart’s favourite, if you weren’t sure) inspires optimism and motivation. It recalls cheer, happiness, and playfulness.
It also is a colour that grabs attention, often used in danger signs.
One of the first things that springs to mind with green is of course nature and eco-friendliness, but also has associations of tranquillity, health, freshness, growth, balance, and renewal.
Often companies will inject some green into marketing materials where they want to make their customers aware of an eco-friendly element of their offering.
The associations with blue are not too dissimilar to that of green; it also invokes a sense of calmness and tranquillity.
It also establishes a sense of authority, security, and stability. For these reasons the colour blue is common for logos amongst the tech and data industries.
A colour historically reserved only for the wealthiest due to the expense of the dye, purple still has connotations of sophistication and luxury. It also invokes feelings of mystery and intrigue.
Pink is an interesting colour. Currently it’s largely out of favour for branding for fear of stereotyping women, but as recent as a century ago pink was actually seen as a masculine colour and one that was favoured for boys. Who knew?
White conveys purity and contemporary, as well as simplicity and cleanliness, peace and honour. However, it can also seem bland and cold.
Currently a popular colour choice, especially for minimalist design, grey can seem practical, conservative, and neutral. It also comes across as professional and corporate, encouraging trust.
It is a colour favoured by companies such as Apple, appearing premium to match the price point of their products and services.
Black is a bold choice. It can seem sombre and serious, but also can invoke sense of being classic, luxurious, elegant and powerful.
Finally brown, with connotations of earthiness, natural and dependability. It seems reliable and steady and can inspire feelings of warmth.
Changing colour meaning with saturation and value
Looking at colour in a little more depth, there are three key terms: hue, saturation and value.
Hue is the proper term for colour. You might remember learning about refraction at school, where a beam of light passes through a glass prism and breaks down into the rainbow. Each colour visible is a wavelength of colour, AKA the hue.
Saturation describes the intensity of a colour. A fully saturated colour is the pure hue, whereas a desaturated colour would appear as grey.
Finally, value of a colour describes the lightness or darkness of the colour. This relates to the amount of light reflected. Colours with dark values where black has been added are shades, whereas light values with white added are tints.
Tweaking the saturation and the value of each hue can really change the meanings and impact it has
Take the example of the colour pink. If you adjust its saturation and value, you might end up with a magenta like Webmart’s, or you might end up with a pastel pink. Either way, they both offer very different feelings to the other.
When selecting colours, it’s unlikely that you’ll exclusively use hues (and we wouldn’t recommend it, either). Most of the colours you use will have varying saturations and values, so it’s important to consider how this changes the associations with each specifically, and how they work together to build an image of your brand for your customers.
Colour values across the world
An awareness of colour meanings across the world is essential, especially for brands that have a presence globally (or aim to).
Take the example of red: in the West, we generally accept it to be a colour of passion and one that commands attention. In China it is the colour for celebrations and for good luck.
Thailand, on the other hand, uses it to represent Sundays; and in South Africa it’s a colour for mourning.
So, it’s important to develop a global awareness of colour usage to help prevent alienating any customers, wherever they happen to live.
The colours need to match brand expectations
Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just picking the colours that match the feeling and associations you’re wanting to project onto your product or brand.
Where the colours don’t meet customer expectations for the offering and the brand, it can actually be really detrimental to the brand’s image.
A children’s toy company wouldn’t be overly appealing if the branding consisted of dark colours like black, brown or grey, as it doesn’t match the products they offer. It might even go as far as to put customers off. It’s all about the perceived appropriateness.
Meeting customer expectations is really important for solidifying brand trust – you don’t want to confuse them.
But don’t be afraid to take a risk
Looking at what others in your industry are doing colour wise is always a good place to start, but you have to stand out.
After all, customers like to easily recognise the brand they are looking for. If you look near identical to another brand, it makes it more difficult for your customers to find you. Not to mention it could get you into some legal trouble.
Balancing colour to being appropriate for customer expectations, showing what kind of brand you are, and standing out from the crowd is tricky, but can make all the difference if you get it right.
So, you’ve picked colours. What next?
If you know what colours you want in your marketing or branding, the next step is to check out our handy free guide on colour modes – especially if you’ll be using a combo of online and print.
Webmart offers free eye-tracking reports, so if you want to make sure your design and use of colour is having the impact you want on your website or artwork, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.